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I also find hope for the characters. As pointed out by both "KP" and herappleness, one could easily argue that the end of the play is a definite wake-up call for the women. It could justified that once they find themselves in a place of power, they will both have very different outlooks on life. These outlooks would (hopefully) force them to find a better life for themselves and insure that their past stays in the past.
I agree with KP, after reading her post, because there is indeed a chance that Tom's departure will serve as a much-needed wake up call to both women. This being said, one could argue that once Amanda finds herself in a position of sole power she may even push Laura forward to build a better future together.
Amanda does have the capability of leading. She simply relies too much on Tom. There is evidence that she knows how to move around in life. She knows where the vocational institute is, and the benefits that she could obtain from finishing a certification there. So, in all, I feel that Amanda will probably end up supporting herself and Laura by finding a job, perhaps doing the same type of work that she wished for Laura to do. As for Laura, I have always said that she needs more tough love than her mother gives her. Maybe once she sees how hard her mother works for the two of them she will wake up and quit her social anxiety for good. I will be honest: I have never sympathized with the character of Laura. I feel that she can choose to behave differently if something drastic occurs. Perhaps Tom's departure is what she needs to snap out of her typical behavior.
Hmm. I have more optimism for Amanda and Laura. I think Williams does too because of the images in the ptomaine scene he closes with as Tom makes his final speech: "[Amanda's] silliness is gone and she has dignity and tragic beauty." First, Amanda did recently work: "while I was working at Famous and Barr, ...." Second, both Amanda and Laura had "gutter-up" epiphanies. Amanda sees her daughter in a different light. Laura sees herself in a different light--though very different from Amanda's new vision. Third, reality has a way of crashing in and forcing action when rugs are metaphorically pulled out from underfoot as in Tom's departure.
I don't predict many happy outcomes for these characters, unfortunately. Certainly, I think Laura is going to be a character who, like her mother, will become more and more withdrawn in her own way. Just as Amanda is likely to live in her past world, so Laura will retreat into her internal world. The play seems to suggest that Jim represented her only hope of escape, but with that gone, her isolation seems inevitable.
If I had to speculate, I'd guess that Amanda sinks deeper into a kind of bitterness and despair, still living in the past rather than trying to focus on the future. These patterns, after all, are long-established in her life, and it seems unlikely that she would change significantly in the future.
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